Vulnerable adults should be protected in the same way as children at risk of abuse, a safeguarding review into the death of an ex-charity worker has found.
Joseph O’Hanlon, 61, was found beaten to death at his Rochdale home in May 2016. He had a long history of alcohol problems and was well known to statutory and voluntary agencies.
Joe’s ex-partner first made a safeguarding referral in July 2014 over concerns he was being financially exploited by “drinking associates” who visited him at home. Joe’s killer, Anthony Bennett, was with him when council and police professionals visited days before his death. Police said Bennett was one of the people who “took advantage” of Joe’s good nature.
Rochdale Safeguarding Adults Board found professionals had been in contact with Joe 128 times since the initial safeguarding concerns were raised.
The review concluded services’ response was “reasonable”, and in some cases “excellent”, with professionals working hard to address the risks Joe faced from other individuals who visited him at home. However, it said the case highlighted “the disparity” between expectations of professionals in adult and child protection cases.
Anthony Bennett was with Joe when a housing officer and police community support officer visited a few days before the killing. The officers had never seen Bennett before and with Joe not appearing threatened by the man, no investigation into his background was made.
The review said if Joe had been a child, “there would have been a much greater expectation in relation to the information that followed from that visit and what was then recorded on both police and local authority systems.” This would have included details of Bennett and an assessment of the risks he might have posed to Joe, if he had been a vulnerable child.
The panel urged authorities to consider how adult safeguarding practices could be better aligned with those that exist within child protection services going forward.
The review also said a Care Act assessment should have been completed, even if Joe was not eligible for social care support, because it might have identified information that would have assisted with the safeguarding enquiry.
It recommended that Care Act assessments are always considered when a safeguarding referral is received, as a means of gaining as much information as possible. It also called for safeguarding services to engage with local banks to ensure they recognise the risk of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults and have measures in place to support them.
Jane Booth, independent chair of the safeguarding adults board, said: “This is a particularly tragic story and our deepest sympathies are with the victim’s family and friends. The murder was a terrible crime and the person responsible is rightly service a prison sentence.”